Information Tribunal publishes two new decisions - both appeals dismissed

Two new decisions have been published by the UK Information Tribunal:

Mr E Simmons v The Information Commissioner (50KB, PDF file)

This decision concerns a request for information about the applicant's Council Tax valuation band. It also considers the quality of the information provided by a public authority in response to an information request. Mr Simmons argued that the Inland Revenue's Valuation Office did not provide the information requested by him; the calculation provided was not the one that he had asked for; and he required a different calculation.

The Tribunal concluded that the Inland Revenue had provided the information to Mr Simmons which was actually held by them at the time of the request concerning the details of how of his Council Tax band had been calculated. Mr Simmons had not identified any information held by the Inland Revenue which had not been communicated to him. Therefore the Tribunal did not find itself able to infer on the evidence that any relevant information which was held by the Revenue at the time of the request had been withheld from Mr Simmons.

The Tribunal continued, "So far as we can determine, Mr Simmons’ real quarrel is over the quality of the information and of the reasoning contained within it, not over whether the information actually held by the Inland Revenue has been communicated to him. Whether the content of the information held is truly adequate, in fact and in law, to justify the banding is a separate question, and one we have no legal power to adjudicate. Even supposing it to be wholly inadequate, Mr Simmons’s complaint that he has been taxed unjustly and unlawfully is not a complaint that we have any jurisdiction to deal with. [...] Under the Freedom of Information Act we are concerned only with the information actually held by the relevant public authorities, not with the quality of the information or the quality of their use of it."

The appeal was dismissed.

Mr R Bustin v The Information Commissioner (19KB, PDF file)

This appeal concerned a dispute over whether a public authority held requested information at the time the request was made.

In January 2005, Mr Bustin had requested a copy of the "approved drawing" relating to a Highways Act section 278 agreement concerning Doubletrees, St Blazey, Cornwall from Cornwall County Council. The Council sent Mr Bustin various responses which did not, until late February 2005, include a copy of the approved drawing. The Council explained in a letter of 4 April 2005 that approval of the drawing took place after the date of Mr Bustin’s information request and the Information Commissioner decided that the information was not held by the Council at the time of the request, and that no remedial action was required.

Mr Bustin argued that the Commissioner was in error because the approved plan was in fact held at the time of the request, and the Council’s response was untrue.

The Tribunal concluded, "It seems to us, therefore, that the Commissioner’s finding, that the approved plan was not held by the Council on the date of the information request, is open to
question. It appears more likely that the Council held the approved plan at the time of the request and did not deal with the request in a satisfactory manner. We have not received evidence from the Council to explain the apparent discrepancy. If it were necessary, in order to determine the appeal, to resolve the precise course of events and the timing of approval of the drawing, we would need such evidence. In our view it is not necessary to do so. It is common ground that Mr Bustin received the approved plan in late February 2005. It seems to us, therefore, that, irrespective of the Commissioner’s factual finding, the only possible conclusion for his decision notice was a conclusion that no remedial action was required."

Appeal dismissed.